The 2018 Saskatchewan Winter Games officially began Sunday evening as the torch relay lit up the streets of North Battleford.
Torch bearers Bill Samborski, Siobhan Gormley and Jill Martin-Ament, all former games alumni, proudly took turns carrying the flame from City Hall to the Civic Centre for the games opening ceremony.
North Battleford resident Samborski said he feels privileged to help carry the flame.
"There are so many people who could have done that," he said. "I am happy to oblige... and to be part of that in what I call my hometown now of North Battleford."
Samborski has a history as a games athlete dating back to 1980, when at the age of 14, he was a competitive swimmer in the Saskatchewan Summer Games in Estevan.
Originally from Melville, Samborski later served as a volunteer as part of the Mission Staff for the 1996 Summer Games in Moose Jaw. He travelled with the athletes, making sure they had everything they needed to take part in the event.
As the current director of Leisure Services for the City of North Battleford, Samborski looks back on his time as a young athlete with fondness, saying "it's something you don't forget."
Samborski said there is so much that participants can take away from their games experience that can last a lifetime.
"When I was given that opportunity to go, I really did not realize the significance of the experience that was being offered me at the time," Samborski said. "It really wasn't until I walked into the athletes' village, which was also at the high school in Estevan, did it then fully hit me just how big an event this was."
He said as a youth taking his first steps into the athletes’ village and seeing "hundreds and hundreds of other athletes from all over the province it was overwhelming."
Battleford resident Siobhan Gormley said it's "a great honour" to be carrying the torch for the 2018 Winter Games, adding: I'm proud to do it."
She currently works as community programmer and booking manager for Leisure Services for the City of North Battleford.
Gormley was an alpine skier in 1974 for the first Winter Games, held in North Battleford.
"I think we competed for a couple of days, and in the dual-slalom event the team won a bronze medal," she said, adding she was about 13-years-old at the time.
Gormley also competed in alpine skiing in the next Winter Games in 1978 in Moose Jaw, when her team won a silver medal.
"It was a wonderful time," she said. "It was very rewarding, and fun to be with athletes from all over the province."
Gormley went on to teach skiing for 12 or 13 years as an occupation, so the sport has been a big part of her life. She still teaches some skiing now.
Jill Martin-Ament, who currently lives in Kindersley, grew up in North Battleford as a young athlete.
When she was 16-years-old she competed as one of the runners in the track event in the 1972 Saskatchewan Summer Games in Moose Jaw.
Known by her maiden name Martin then, she won three gold medals in track. She believes they would have been in the 440 yards (400 metres), 880 yards (800 metres), and the mile (1,500 metres) competitions.
“That’s all I ran,” she said. “The 440 wasn’t my usual race. I always ran the 880 and the mile."
Martin-Ament was one of the torch bearers in the Saskatchewan Winter Games held in North Battleford in 1974.
“Definitely, after all this time I have vivid memories of it,” she said.
Martin-Ament is currently retired after enjoying a long career as a high school teacher, teaching kinesiology and physical education.
Jay Nichol is the torch relay committee chair for this year's Winter Games.
"Jill (Martin-Ament) lit the cauldron at the 1974 games, and Bill (Samborski) and Siobhan (Gormley) are very involved with sport and fitness within our community, which made them great choices to represent our community in the torch relay," Nichol said.
The first part of the Saskatchewan Winter Games torch relay was held Thursday when organizers and 30 youths representing 15 local schools took part in a march from the Civic Centre to City Hall.
Sunday's torch relay marked the official ceremony when the three Games alumni carried the torch from City Hall back to the Civic Centre, to light the cauldron and officially start the games.
The opening ceremonies are also happening Sunday night at the Civic Centre in North Battleford.
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